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WL's Mainstream Gay Book Reviews - 14. Sex Ed by Z.B. Heller


Oh boy, I can describe this book in one word: Messy. That’s not in a good way, either. It’s short at 292 pages and 6 hours 36 minutes on audible, so probably around 50-60K words.

The story is about a geeky boy named Jaxson, who is 23, gay, and still a virgin. He writes comic books as an amateur, but has lacked the confidence to present his work to a publisher. Due to an accident with a gay sex toy, he has to go to an ER, which ends up with his encounter with Tyler, a 25 years old nurse. The story focus on their budding romantic relationship and eventual consummation with a variety of side-stories and low-level angst. Despite what the description of the story may allude, Tyler did not teach Jaxson how to express himself sexually.

Is it a comedy? Yes, but the humor is hit-or-miss with a few parts that just went a bit way off the mark to Pluto. The sex toy incident at the beginning of the book was funny and believable as I worked in medical centers before and I have heard the gossip about similar things. Yet, Jaxson’s family commentary on his sex life felt so off. Yes, there are open minded families and its true people joke about sex all the time, but there’s a line in the sand, especially around strangers. Other details that fell flat, how stupid could a modern mother be as to not recognize her daughter was having sex in a dark basement during her various study sessions with male members of her high school? That scene where Jaxson and Tyler hunt down Colton, Tyler’s nephew, was such a throwback. I can accept a lot of incredulity, but in the modern world, if I ever had a daughter, I would lay down the ground rules, while offering condoms and pills, because I am not a stupid 1950’s puritanical parent, who has never heard of “sex before marriage”, heaven forbid! That scene wasn’t funny, it wasn’t immature, nor was it even cringey. The scene was just wrong.

(Worst bad-joke: Ethan, Jaxson best friend and cousin, being described as a toddler of gay parents finding a butt plug, thinking its a pacifier 🙉 If you want people to be against gay surrogacy or gay parenting in general, I can't imagine a more horrific sight.)

Was this a drama? Yes, Tyler’s story was very dramatic as young man dealing with raising his nephew, whose father, Tyler’s brother, died due to a secret drug addiction and overdose. Yet, his interesting story lost its shine compared to Jaxson’s search to lose his virginity, which was something that could be done so much better and far more romantically than was here. There is a type of plot dissonance that neutered the ability for me at least as a reader to enjoy the story. I did enjoy Tyler’s nephew Colton’s justified angst and teenage rebellion, initially, but sometimes, I think the tropes the Z.B Heller used just fell apart as something from the 80’s or early 90’s sitcoms.

Was this a gay sex fantasy-worthy of a certain website known for gay erotica? Sometimes, but not enough to even get my flag up halfway. Plus, the main characters just felt off, like Tyler is not old enough for his maturity, nor is Jaxson innocent enough for the fantasies. Again, the dissonance that sort of breaks their stories also breaks their relationship's compatibility. The summary/blurb of Sex Ed made me think, "might be a fun sexy romance comedy about someone learning to be more sexually expressive", but what I got was a halfway drama with comedy that just didn't always work, plus a few spicy scenes. I wanted hellfire sexy heat at least and got an egg being cooked under the summer sun's heat. It was disappointing for those who want vivacious gay sex as well.

The over-the-top side characters like Ethan, Jaxson straight best friend and cousin due to his gay uncle, and Sophie, Jaxson’s twin sister made a great impression, when they were around it was comedic. Their banter and love-hate diatribe with each other after an event gave fresh air to the story, like an episode of the classic sitcom Friends. The Jaxson’s other family members, especially his mother, felt off, there’s something unbelievably cartoonish about them.

I felt whiplash, when I read this gay romance: maybe it’s Z.B Heller style, but she’s not bridging the dichotomy of Jaxson cartoonish over-the-top problems and Tyler dramatic real-life issues. I get the character template she chose, since Jaxson being a comic book geek and amateur creator should have a cartoonish backdrop, while Tyler being a gay nurse with sexual experience should be dealing with real-world issues. However, there are better ways to incorporate and meld both sides together. For her fans, I know Heller writes heterosexual romance as well as Male-Male gay romance, I think her style didn’t translate well between the genres, or she fell back on a lot of old preconceived notions that makes no-sense in the modern world. I do respect what she wanted to do with the characters, but I just can’t understand at times why she made certain plot moves.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5, I love the geeky gay guy meeting his perfect partner stories, but this is an example of something that I didn’t enjoy. It felt too unbalanced, too unrealistic with realistic elements, but not surreal. I cannot recommend this book, but I can see why some people like it.


Short review, but I don’t want to bash a gay fiction writer, she tried her best and I understand what she was looking to do. I might not enjoy this story, but it’s just my opinion. I know on Goodreads this is one of her highest rated books. Maybe, I am in the minority, it just didn’t feel right to me compared to other gay fiction writers I enjoyed.

Copyright © 2021 W_L; All Rights Reserved.
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